When the time comes to repaint the garage to get rid of old, peeling or cracked paint, before you break out the rollers and set up the drop cloths, you have to select a paint. Exterior paints are designed for durability against harsh weather, but not all exterior finishes are created equal. When it comes to a comparison of satin and semi-gloss paints, each has pros and cons.
The finish, or sheen, refers to the reflection and gloss of the paint once it dries. The sheen of a paint describes the amount of light the paint's surface reflects. A satin finish, also referred to as a low-luster finish, shows a conservative amount of gloss. Semi-gloss paints have a higher amount of shine than satin, but are not as glossy as high-gloss paint. Since a semi-gloss reflects light, it has a tendency to show imperfections under the paint, such as dents, cracks and holes.
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Durability should always be considered when selecting exterior paint, since a surface area such as a garage is exposed to all kinds weather and general wear and tear from use. For the exterior of a garage, Sherwin-Williams recommends semi-gloss paints because they are dirt-resistant, easier to clean and hold up well in high moisture. A satin finish is also durable against scratches and peeling, but lacks the ability to stand up against high moisture like a semi-gloss finish.
Scratches and peeling paint can be expected on a much-used surface like the garage door. When these areas are sanded and touched up, the results between semi-gloss and satin vary greatly. Since imperfections show through easily with a semi-gloss paint, if the scratch, dent or peeling area is not repaired and smoothed out properly, the semi-gloss paint will still show the imperfection no matter where it is on the garage's exterior -- even with several coats. Satin, on the other hand, does not reflect as much light, which makes touchups easier and less noticeable when repairing imperfections.
Both satin and semi-gloss paints are durable enough for cleaning. Both can be wiped down or hosed off, but only the semi-gloss finish can be scrubbed. A satin finish, since it does not have a gloss layer, may tend to scrape off during excessive scrubbing, while a semi-gloss finish holds strong. Since the finish of a semi-gloss paint is smoother, it is easier to wipe away dirt and grease from it than from a satin finish.